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Janet's story

7th September 2020

After doing her first sold out performance of her one woman show, Janet was diagnosed with MS and she put her passion on hold. She told herself that she would perform again, but it wasn’t until she had a surgery that affected her voice that she decided she couldn’t waste anymore time. This year for the first time in 12 years, Janet performed and produced a one woman, 60-minute show.

Janet says she’s been singing since she was just a little girl, turning her passion into a career as a performer and teacher. “Music for me is definitely a vocation. Music and creating is not a normal nine to five job, my desk is a piano. I’m doing what I want and what I like to do in life, as work. I never really stop thinking about it.”

Her last performance was in 2008 at the Adelaide Fringe Festival for her show The Weather Girl. Leading up to the show, it had been two weeks of 40-degree weather, everywhere was stifling hot. At the time she didn’t realise how she would react to the heat. The next day she woke up paralysed on her right side.

The MS diagnosis changed her entire life. Suddenly she had these symptoms of pain and fatigue that meant working and performing was harder than it once was. She spent the years following her diagnosis, learning to live with and manage her symptoms. She always said that all she wanted was to perform once more and she had been planning a new show in her mind for seven years.

In 2018 Janet had an emergency thyroidectomy, which left her unable to sing for six months. She was weak and ill and didn’t know if her voice was going to come back. For the first time she thought she might never perform again.

“I couldn’t believe it crossed my mind. I thought no, this is not how it’s going to end. I said to myself you just don’t know what’s going to happen. What if I wait another seven years, I could get sick again,” Janet says.

Coincidentally she was invited to perform at an Adelaide Fringe Festival event in Murray Bridge this year. She knew this was her chance and she had to take it. Janet had no idea if she could do it, but she was very curious to see if she could.

There’s a lot of preparation that goes into writing, producing and practicing for a show like this. Not to mention she has her MS symptoms to consider which have never played a factor before.

Janet says preparing for a show usually takes about six weeks, but she doubled that. She worked on it as often as she could while managing her time and energy.

“I rest quite a bit and I feel like I’m wasting a lot of time, even though I am fulfilling things,” Janet says

“Resting for me is sleeping, watching something enjoyable on television, listening to the radio and gardening.”

Getting through a 60-minute show, with fatigue, would prove to be no small feat. Singing drains energy. Janet compares it to swimming. You take big breaths and control it with your diaphragm. Just like a swimmer works with a coach to get them physically fit, it took months of training with a vocal coach to re-build the strength in Janet’s diaphragm.

Even with the vocal coaching, singing for a full 60 minutes would take a toll on Janet’s energy. So, she combined singing with comedy to create her new show. Through the lens of comedy, she talks about MS as one of her topics.

“I think rather than talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk. I want to be sincere in my thoughts and goals. And I finally did it. I did perform again, despite the opinion of my scarred brain. I was very proud of myself and it’s not often I’ll say that,” Janet says.

“I think people need to discover what makes them happy. Keep going. Even if it takes you seven years to write a show and 12 years to perform again. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. It’s tough, I’m not going to say it was easy. It wasn’t. But I was determined. Set goals for yourself and see if you can achieve them. Hope is not lost.”

Now that Janet’s made her comeback on stage, she’s excited to perform again! She will be performing her new show Mozart Definitely Would’ve Been My Boyfriend at the Back 2 Back Short Show Festival in October.

We’d love to share your positive MS story in the next issue of Network! Contact our Marketing team at communication@ms.asn.au.

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Janet's story